Candidates for national positions will officially begin their 90-day campaign Tuesday, February 9, in what could be a bruising stretch, especially for those running for President.
In the months since they announced their candidacies, presidential contenders have been defined, more by negative issues surrounding them, than by what they stand for.
Vice-President Jejomar Binay is hounded by allegations of large-scale corruption, while people have raised questions over Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas’ managerial skills.
Sen. Grace Poe is battling disqualification cases over her citizenship and residency, while human rights groups are wary of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s supposed dictatorial tendencies.
With surveys suggesting no clear winner so far, a political analyst is anticipating a "no-holds-barred" campaign among presidential contenders.
“No one will be spared (because) the stakes are high (including) the cost (of the campaign),” Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, told ABS-CBN News.
A Roxas spokesman called for a “higher level of discourse,” now that the official campaign period was underway. But Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez said his camp was also ready for whatever issues Roxas’ rivals would throw at him.
“We’re not saying that we won’t call to task our rivals on particular issues that they have avoided,” Gutierrez said.
“I don’t think that in the case of VP Binay, raising the issue of corruption is off-limits.”
In Roxas’ latest campaign ad, he promised he would “never steal.” Gutierrez said it was “quite obvious to voters” to whom the message was intended.
But Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, president of Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance party, said the Vice-President did not feel alluded to by the Roxas’ ad.
“We know that our conscience is clear, that (the corruption allegations) are not true,” Tiangco said.
No such issue hounds Poe, a neophyte senator. But her experience and competence are under scrutiny.
Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, Poe’s spokesman, said she brings a “fresh face, a fresh perspective” in the campaign.
“People keep saying she lacks experience, but others who’ve been in government for too long have become jaded,” Gatchalian said. “So perhaps, it’s time that we introduce a new candidate with a new perspective and who offers new solutions to the people.”
Lito Banayo, a political strategist for Duterte, said presidential candidates all have their “good points and bad points.”
“In the end, voters will choose who they think will make their lives better, and hope his perceived negatives will improve as he grows into the presidency,” he said in a text message.